With crucial playmakers Toni Kroos and Luka Modric both back from injury, Real Madrid are favourites to continue their fine goal-scoring form and secure a sixth consecutive UCL quarter-finals appearance. Club talisman Cristiano Ronaldo scored four in a second-half demolition of the 7th placed Celta Vigo and the returning Gareth Bale put smiles to the faces of many Madridistas with a well-placed strike from outside the box. While Karim Benzema remains on the sidelines with a hamstring injury, Ronaldo and co. nevertheless remain the likely bet to secure a win.
Real Madrid currently lead 2-0 on aggregate against their Italian counterparts, with Ronaldo and Jese having been clinical at the Stadio Olimpico. Unbeaten in this season’s UCL and as the competition’s highest scoring team (21), Madrid have exhibited some strong form in the elusive European competition. At home, Real Madrid remain a fortress, albeit having lost to both Barcelona and Atletico de Madrid. Los Blancos have scored an incredible 11 goals in their last three games at the Bernabéu and have managed to keep a clean sheet in 6 of their 7 last European games (as well as having won 6 out of 7 of their UCL matches).
Despite Cristiano Ronaldo’s 27 La Liga and 12 Champions League goals (making him the top-scorer in both competitions), the Portuguese superstar has been subject to much criticism, with some fans even insisting that he be sold for the benefit of the team. Manager Zinedine Zidane, has urged his side’s goal-scoring leader to ignoring the critics. "I'm not in favour of selling him. I am the coach and I want him […] [t]hey (the fans) whistled at me, at everyone." CR7, aware of the ever-demanding Bernabéu faithful, will surely not let such criticism get to him, with the star constantly silencing detractors.
Many will be pleased with the likely possibility of Madrid’s Welsh Wizard's return to the starting XI after having made a goal-scoring return from a lengthy injury on the sidelines. "Bale looked good, he was happy to play after so long," said Zidane. Gareth Bale certainly looks set to be an important asset to Zidane’s Madrid team, and must avoid any relapses if Madrid are to have a chance in obtaining silverware this season.
With Roma having reveled in 4-1 win against Fiorentina at the weekend, the Giallorossi will be confident that they can cause Madrid trouble at home. Although Zidane’s men enjoyed a high scoring win against Celta, any fan that watched the game will be well aware that Madrid were far from their best in the opening 45 minutes. Should Luciano Spalletti’s team score an early goal, Los Blancos will need to react quickly in order to avoid a humiliating exit in front of their own fans.
As Roma need goals and will likely get forward often, this may leave gaps in the back, which the returning Gareth Bale and the in-form CR7 can expertly exploit. Bale’s much-needed pace and direct runs may prove to be decisive in a match that is expected to produce plenty of goals.
Roma’s impressive form may be a matter of concern for Zidane, as the Italian capital club has now won seven straight Serie A games. After replacing Rudi Garcia, Spalletti has done a fine job which has seen Roma’s momentous rise in form. "This is the true Roma," Pjanic told Roma Radio. "We will go to Madrid and try to put in a perfect performance."
Last season, Los Blancos were dangerously close to a crushing elimination at the hands of Schalke in a 4-3 second league defeat at the Bernabéu. Zidane must urge his players to play with intensity from the get-go should he wish to avoid such a potential scare in front of the impatient Madridistas.
Roma possible lineup: Szczesny; Florenzi, Manolas, Zukanovic, Digne; Pjanic, Vainqueur, Nainggolan; Salah, Perotti, El Shaarawy
Real Madrid possible lineup: Navas; Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Kroos, Isco; James, Ronaldo, Bale
Head to Head:
- 17/02/16 – Roma 0 – 2 Real Madrid
- 18/07/15 – Real Madrid 0 – 0 Roma
- 30/07/14 – Real Madrid 0 – 1 Roma
- 05/03/08 – Real Madrid 1 – 2 Roma
- 19/02/08 – Roma 2 – 1 Real Madrid
Managing Madrid staff predictions:
- Lucas – Real Madrid 2 – 0 Roma
- Andrejs – Real Madrid 4 – 1 Roma
- Nate – Real Madrid 3 – 1 Roma
- Kiyan - Real Madrid 3 – 2 Roma
- Om - Real Madrid 2 – 1 Roma